P opular Culture is, by definition, the most essential conversational currency human beings have. Without it, we would lack any real passion and enthusiasm in for our daily interactions. As much as we could (particularly in Britain) engage in small talk and niceties till the end of time, it is pop-culture that gets our blood pumping. It drives interaction by default, encouraging us to engage in discussion and share what has stood out and resonated with us in an increasingly busy world.
20 years ago this experience could be defined as distinctly analogue.
In order to get your fix of the latest entertainment and social commentary, you would still have to visit a cinema, read a magazine or listen to a CD.
That is no longer the case.
The revolution will not be televised
In just under two decades our consumption of pop culture has changed so drastically that it would have seemed completely alien in the early 2000s.
These days binge-watching a new series, finding an article on Twitter or streaming the latest Spotify playlist are far more concurrent with our modern media habits.
What is perhaps more interesting than how our consumption of pop culture has changed with the rise of the internet is how the media itself has changed with it.
Death by streaming
Our media has changed so completely to match our new found hunger for content that TV from over 20 years ago now feels painfully slow compared to its current, slick, streaming-friendly iteration.
The assumption that the audience knows exactly what is going on as they have literally just watched the last episode has completely redefined the way TV is written and produced.
It is hardly an original observation to say that we live in a faster world than we did in the early 2000s. It is clear to everyone that with the rise of smartphones and social media we are ‘always’ switched on.
This desire to stay up to date and current with our pop-culture obsessions has effectively robbed us of our previously liberal patience.
The concept of watching a weekly TV show is slowly but surely dying, replaced instead by consuming a series at your own pace on your time. It is not inconceivable that in the near future all TV will be streamable instantly. It may keep its place in a weekly schedule to appease required TV channel air time. But we are now at a point where people search for a TV show on Netflix before they look to see what time its on TV.
As instant music streaming becomes the standard for how we listen to new songs the concept of a 40-minute album is becoming more and more defunct. Sitting down and physically playing a record, or even a CD seems more and more old fashioned every year. Why limit yourself to a selection of 12 songs in a specific order when you can listen to a pre-curated playlist of individual tracks you will probably love based on a creepily good algorithm. Conventional albums hardly have a chance.
Even one of the most forward-thinking aspects of pop-culture, video games, has changed beyond recognition. The co-op games of the 90s and 2000s promoted human interaction, forcing you to share a screen and a, more importantly, a sofa with a friend. In 2019 video game companies have latched on the most basic human need of laziness to make video games the most insular or all pop-culture mediums. Why trek all the way over to see your friend and play MarioKart on a half-sized screen when you could just play them online, fullscreen, with minimal effort from the comfort of your own room.
The next episode
Now, not for one minute does the advancement of the internet mean that any of our previous methods of pop culture are no longer available, it’s just that they are no longer the norm. Pop culture consumption has changed and pop culture has changed with it. Our 21st-century desire for speed and the instant gratification has led to dramatic changes in our social norms for consuming media.
What is now exceptionally clear is that you need to be up to date to remain in the conversation. Pop-culture is now so obsessive that you have to be up to date caught for risk of spoilers or worse irrelevance.
This is not to say that you must choose one form of media consumption over the other. Who says you can’t still play vinyl records without listening to music on Spotify. Who says you can only watch films on Netflix instead of going to the cinema. And who says you can’t still meet up with your friends to play MarioKart as well as playing against them online.
In 2019 we are stood on the precipice of a complete cultural shake-up. But just before we descend into completely digitalised existence you can still enjoy the best of both worlds.
Long live digital, long live analogue.